Advancing entrepreneurship in underserved communities
Bethel New Life - $400,000
Funding will allow Bethel New Life, an organization seeking to transform Chicago’s West Side communities, to expand its Business Innovation Technology program and create a new Design Thinking Institute that will bring technology training to community development organizations throughout Chicago.Learn More
BLUE1647 - $450,000
Funding will allow BLUE1647, an innovation center and business accelerator that fosters economic development, technology education, and workforce development, primarily for people of color, to implement BLUECONTINUITY, an effort to expand and tailor their course offerings to a wider community. Funding will also support BLUEPROCURE, a program to help minority and women-owned businesses secure procurement opportunities.Learn More
Bunker Labs - $450,000
Funding will allow Bunker Labs, an organization empowering military veterans to become leaders in entrepreneurship and innovation, to launch a fifty state expansion of Launch Lab Online, which allows veterans and military families to learn about entrepreneurship and develop their business at any time, from any place. Funding will also support CEOcircle, a cohort based program that provides additional resources to later-stage founders.Learn More
Future Founders - $400,000
Funding will allow Future Founders, an organization focused on inspiring the next generation of young entrepreneurs, to expand their Future Founders Residency, a program that fosters the development of diverse millennial entrepreneurs with one-on-one mentoring, growth coaches, skill-training workshops, and venture pitching.Learn More
Every American, no matter where they are from, deserves the chance to get ahead. That means we need to make it easier – not harder – for small businesses to get off the ground, especially for those led by women, Veterans, immigrants and people of color in underserved communities. I’m pleased these investments will help support a diverse group of entrepreneurs in Chicagoland area, and I look forward to continuing my efforts to make economic justice a reality for all Americans.– United States Senator Tammy Duckworth
History of the Program
Submission of Proposals
Through an open RFP, proposals were accepted in early 2017. Please note: the application process is now closed.
Selection of Cohort
8 organizations were selected for the first cohort, receiving a total of $1 million in grant funding. For more information on grantees, please see below.
Year 1 Activities
Organizations will focus on deploying strategies to recruit and engage entrepreneurs from the target populations in their programs. Programs will officially launch in July 2017.
Year 2-3 Activities
Four organizations from the original cohort were selected to receive a total of $1.7 million in two year grants to refine and expand their programs.
We will host regular convenings and networking events for the cohort to foster collaboration and the sharing of best practices to maximize the regional impact of Blackstone's investment. In addition, we will link the leadership of the cohort with the resources of Blackstone and the broader Chicago entrepreneurial ecosystem.
Director, Inclusive Entrepreneurship
Jimmy Odom was co-founder and Senior Vice President for Innovation and Entrepreneurship of Intersect Illinois, the State’s public-private partnership driving business and economic opportunity. He is the immediate past Senior Advisor for Minority Business Development at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. In that role, Jimmy worked with communities across the state to help create, develop, and mature minority-owned businesses in the State of Illinois. Before joining the Department of Commerce, Jimmy founded WeDeliver, the largest hyper-local logistics service in Chicago. As CEO of WeDeliver, Jimmy was responsible for creating, communicating and implementing the vision, mission, and corporate direction. Prior to launching WeDeliver, Jimmy worked at Apple Inc. as the Head of Customer Experience for the Midwest region. Jimmy has been recognized by many business leaders within the Midwest entrepreneurial community. IBM awarded his team North America’s Most Innovative Company Award (2014). The Chicago Urban League presented him with the Chicago Urban League Innovator Award that same year (2014). He was featured on Crain’s Business Chicago’s 50 Most Influential People list (2014) and at the Moxie Awards his peers voted him the Best Founder in Chicago (2014). Jimmy was raised in Chicago, Illinois and now resides in Homewood with his wife and three children.
Jimmy Odom joins ChicagoNext after leaving state government post
Jimmy Odom Joins World Business Chicago to Boost Tech Diversity in Chicago
Chicago will get up to $3.4 million in grants to support diverse entrepreneurs
Mayor Emanuel, Blackstone Charitable Foundation and World Business Chicago Launch Blackstone Inclusive Entrepreneurship Challenge
Brought to You By The Blackstone Charitable Foundation
I am thrilled that the Blackstone Charitable Foundation is launching its first inclusive entrepreneurship program in my hometown. We hope that this program will serve as a model for other cities seeking to increase support and opportunities for entrepreneurs from all communities.— Jon Gray, Global Head of Blackstone Real Estate